THE WESTERN SIBERIAN PLANES: 1898
The horses galloped along at high speed, kicking up a combination of snow and frozen mud, as they traveled along. The two riders were cloaked, obscuring their faces, as they made their way through the forests. From the woods themselves, only the wolves, out hunting saw these two men as they tore up the narrow muddy track. They paid them little heed.
The forest grew thick around them, as they rode one behind the other, turning sharp corners, and nearly losing control. Dead tree branches scraped at their heavy woolen cloaks, threatening to tear them off. This did not despair the riders.
Then, with a burst of light, they broke out of the entangled forest, and shot out into an open snowy plane. High above them, the full moon shone down with an eerie glow, making the white snow, seem to shine with a light of it's own.
The riders did not slow down, as they tore across the field. They only increased their speed. Of in the distance, loomed an ancient fortress from the days of Alexander 2nd, when the armies of Russia marched eastward towards the North Western Pacific. It was old, crumpling and forbidding, and as the riders drew near, torchlight sprang up on the castle battlements.
The guard looked down at them, as the two riders screeched to a shuddering halt before the castle drawbridge.
"Who goes there?" He called out in Russian.
The lead rider reached into his pocket, and pulled out a small gold medallion. He then reached back, and threw the object up the guard. He caught it, and held it before his torchlight. A few seconds passed, before the guard tossed the medallion back down to the rider. He then disappeared from view.
A minute later, there was a loud click, followed by the sound of rusty metal gears whining as the drawbridge slowly lowered it's self down.
It landed with a muffled thump that seemed to echo all around the empty frozen plane. The lead rider spurred his horse, and the two of them, raced into the castle's courtyard.
The lead rider pulled hard on his horse's rains, and the horse protested loudly, nearly throwing its rider. His companion, trotted up from behind and both riders dismounted with a quick leap, their boots thudding on the stone courtyard.
From the second floor, two guards in exactly the same cloaks made their way down the stone stairs, towards the riders, each one of them carrying an oil lantern. They walked over to the newly arrived guests. The guards looked like characters from the Dark Ages, with their clothes, and oil lantern, but the Winchester rifle that was half hidden by the thick woolen cloak of the lead guard, ruined that image.
No words were spoken, as the lead guard and raider just nodded at each other, then the lead guard spoke.
"The High Priest is waiting for you in the chapel." The lead rider nodded again, and turned to his companion, and motioned with a gloved hand.
"Come," he said, "We best not keep him waiting." They followed the guards up the stairs, and into a dimly lit hallway. It was cramped in this corridor, as there was barely enough room for the men to walk one behind the other.
Then, the corridor emptied into a grand staircase that overlooked a highly decorated circular room. Stained glass windows plastered end of the room, with rows upon rows of raised seats, like a pantheon. In the middle of the room, was a stone alter, with a white cloth covering it. Before the alter, stood an aging man, with a snow-white beard, wearing the robes of a Russian Orthodox Priest.
All around the room were strange banners; they were pure white, with the red image of the most odd face one had ever seen in the middle of them.
"Is he the one?" The hollow voice of the old man called out. The lead rider step forward, and bowed.
"Yes, my lord," he replied. "He is the one." The old man turned around, to face his guests.
"Come forth," he said, motioning to the other rider. The man stepped forward, past his friend, and the guards, to stand before the old man. The riders face was half hidden by the shadows of his hood, but the workings of a thick tangled beard could be seen, jutting from his jaw. "Are you ready to take the tests?"
"Yes, father," the man replied, "I am. Test me!"
From a hidden door, a robed man carrying a red box, step forward, and glided over to the priest. He bowed, and handed the old man the box. The priest nodded his head to the man, who turned about and left, then placed the box on the stone alter.
"Can you tell me, my son, what is in this box?"
The man's head lowered slightly, and even though he could not see it, the priest could tell he had closed his eyes, and he concentrated. Finally, his head rose, and he smiled.
"I see nothing," he replied, "Nothing is inside that box." The priest picked it up, and lifted off the lid, then tilted it forward so all could see.
It was completely empty.
"Well done," the priest said. "You have earned passageway into the highest order of the Brotherhood. Kneel before me." The man kneeled, and the Priest laid his right hand on his covered head. He mumbled a few words, then looked back down at the man.
"Arise," he commanded, and the man rose, pulling back his hood. His beard was long, and wavy, with a short mustache, his hair was neat and combed, he had piercing blue eyes, and appeared to be in his mid thirties. "Tell me, my son, what is your name?"
"Grigory Yefimovich Rasputin," the man replied.
"Brother Rasputin," the priest said to him, "You have been called upon by the order to guard the Romanov family through these dark times. But an ancient evil threatens to plunge our once peaceful country into terror and war."
Rasputin glanced up at the symbols on the banners that lined the room. They seemed to be showing a face, but a sad face, one that seemed to be crying.
"Then why call me?" Rasputin asked.
"For millennia, the guardians have laid dormant, man has been unable to wake them, yet some one with your powers would have no trouble doing so. The Evil ones forces are gathering, Brother Rasptuin, and only the guardians can save us."
"Yes, father," Rasputin replied, bowing before the man. "I will try my best."
"Then come, we must hurry."
A guide suddenly materialised before the prist, and then they led Rasptuin away into the bowels of the castle. They left the room, and descended down a tightly packed spiral staircase.
The stairs continued to go down, and Rasptuin thought that they might actually descend into the depths of hell its self.
Only when the light of burning torches finally began to glow, did Rasptuin relax. The stairs ended, and came out into a long, narrow corridor. Torches lit the way, towards a small wooden door at the very end.
"Come," The prist said, as his guide helped him down the hall. At the end, the Priest knocked on the door, then muttered a low sound he thought the old man could not possible produce.
There was a loud click, and the door swung open. A cloaked man carrying a bolt-action rifle, appeared on the other side of the door. He nodded at the prist, and glared at Rasputin. Rasputin glared back with his own intense eyes, making the guard cringe.
"Enough," The prist warned, and they went through the door. The room emptied into an enormous underground cavern that seemed to stretch on forever. Phosphorate filled the cavern with an eerie glow that made even Rasputin shiver in fear.
Then, he saw it.
He gasped, and nearly staggered back in shear amazement. Not far away, lay the biggest metal object he'd ever seen. It was a dull orange colour, and seemed to be shaped like an arrowhead. There were about six funnels that projected from the back of the thing, that obviously moved it, and it lay on an odd angle, tilted 45 degrees to the left.
It was then, that he noticed the strange red faces that he saw on the banners were plastered all over the thing.
"My, God!" Rasptuin whispered.
The prist turned and smiled at him. "Welcome, Brother Rasptuin. Welcome to the Ark!"
TRANSFORMERS: Generation 1
"TRANSFORMERS: Blood & Iron"
Central Scotland: Two Weeks Later…
The howling winds tore through the leave-less trees, sending the leaves on the forest ground spiraling into the air. Lighting flashed, and thunder crackled. Through the forest, a lone black-coloured, twin horsed carriage drove along at full speed.
"Hi-Yaah!" The driver yelled out, as he cracked the whip, making the horse increase their already dangerous speed.
Inside the cab, the man in the black cloak, and top hat, checked his pocket watch, before glancing out through the distorted image of the passenger's side window. The rain thrummed loudly on the roof of the carriage as he sat there for what seemed like hours, just staring at the foliage on ether side of the road. Not that there was much to see. Sheets of water streamed down over the sides of the windows, making anything outside to see, virtually impossible.
Lighting lit up the night sky, and the thunderclap that followed actually made the man jump, and he nearly was catapulted from his seat. The driver seemed to finally realise the danger he was inviting at the high speeds and he slowed down a fraction, just as the carriage careened over a slight raised section of the road, sending the vehicle into the air for a split second, before bouncing back down on the road with a shuddering jolt.
"Please, be careful," the man muttered to the roof where the driver obviously sat. He drummed the fingers of his right hand on the leather suitcase he cradled on his lap, and with the other, reached up to grab the handle by the door.
Through the pouring rain, the carriages lamps illuminated an old wooden termite infested sign that rested on the edge of the road. It swung about like crazy in the wind; on it's rusty hinges. It was amazing that it was still standing at all.
The passenger leaned over, as if to get a closer look. The rain-slashed windows, which was almost impossible to see through, made it very difficult to read the words. He was traveling at dangerous speeds for the conditions, but still, he managed to get a quick glance at the sign, as he passed it.
"RANNOCH MANSION: 4K Ahead"
The man smiled. He was nearing his destination. He leaned back in his seat, to enjoy the rest of the ride in comfort. In just a few more minutes, he'd find out what required him to make a trip all the way form London on such short notice.
After some time, the driver banged down on the roof, and shouted out something, which the passenger didn't catch. Staring forward, past the warped image of the rain slashed windows, the man saw the black silhouette of a mansion, looming in the distance, and he felt the carriage slowing down. As it did so, the front lamps flashed upon a rusty old iron gate that blocked their path. The carriage stopped, and the driver jumped down, and hurried over to the gates.
There was no lock on them, and the driver rushed forward and pushed hard on them. The gates swung wide open in the wind and banged loudly. The driver went back to the carriage, climbed back up into his seat, and drove in through the gates, and then stopped, as he jumped back down, walked back to close the gates behind him.
It was a long, wooded driveway, loosely gravelled. Nothing could be seen on either side, the hedges and plants that grew there, were so thick and over grown. Finally, the carriage came to the end of the driveway, and as the driver brought the carriage to a stop, lighting dashed across the sky, lighting everything up like day, and the passenger stared at the building in front of him.
It was a massive two story grey-bricked building. The front porch stuck out more forward the rest of the building, with a small flight of stone steps leading to a pair of large wooden doors. To the left was a small arch like part, with the windows set far into the house. On a ledge in front was a small statue of a man holding some sort of scythe. To the right, it extended on, unremarkable. But it was the size that was amazing. The rest disappeared into the gloom that the trees created out around it.
There were no lights on in the house anywhere.
Out of instinct, he reached into his cloak to where the revolver lay strapped to his chest. He then picked up his top hat, and then grabbing the umbrella from the seat next to him, he got out of the carriage as the driver opened the door for him, and hurried over to the front door. He shook the umbrella free of water, and then turning about, looked at the door. He then grabbed the doorknocker, and banged it as loudly as he could.
For a few eerie moments, there was silence. Lighting flashed and thunder roared, making the man shiver. He then banged harder. "Hello!" He shouted out. "Is anyone home?" He turned around to talk to the driver, but blinked in amazement, to see the lamps of the carriage ridding off into the stormy night.
He banged a third time, and still, no one answered. Shivering from the cold, he tried the door handle. It turned, and the doors opened. Suddenly, a gust of wind blew into the porch, and pulled the door handles from his grasp, allowing the double doors, swung wide open with a bang.
The man found himself standing inside a huge room filled with posh looking furniture. This was the front parlour; its huge windows gave views of the outside although the water from the rain distorted the view warping it to some obscure image of a deranged artist's view of the world. The curtains hung like limp flags in a still breeze. From the ceiling hung a crystal chandler with flickering candles. Other candles in sconces along the walls cast shadowy patterns on the wallpaper and at the far end stood 2 wooden doors set apart from one another, both closed.
Hesitantly, he entered the room, and then putting down his umbrella, he turned around and closed both of the front doors, struggling against the wind. They closed with a loud bang, and quickly muffled the sounds of the storm, raging outside, plunging the room into silence. He turned around, and looking about, walked into the centre of the room, his black polished shoes echoing with every step on the polished marble floor.
"Greetings!" The sound of the voice from behind him made the man scream out in alarm. He spun around, whipping out the revolver, to see a shadowy figure, standing in an open doorway, of to his right.
"Who in God's name are you!" The man demanded.
"Put that away," the man replied, walking forward, "If the master wanted you dead, he could've done that years ago."
He was hesitant at first, but realising the truth in the man's words, slowly placed the revolver back inside his cloak. The man then walked over and lit an oil lamp. Light filled the room, as he turned up the brightness, and then turned to face his guest.
The man was in his late fifties, wearing a butler's uniform. "You must apologise for my lateness, sir," he answered, "With the sounds of the storm outside, sounds can get somewhat, confusing."
"Whatever," the man answered, taking of his cloak, and placing it on a coat rack. "Do you know why I'm here?"
"All will be explained," the butler replied. "Please, follow me."
With the room lit, the man looked around the room he was in. It was fairly big, with twin staircases leading up to a second floor. Three large doors lead to other parts of the house, one to his left, one to his right, and one straight ahead. There was a large chandelier above him that could light the whole room.
"Sir?" He looked up and saw the butler waiting halfway up the steps.
"Oh, yes, I'm coming,"
he said as he quickly climbed the stairs to fall in behind the
butler. He was lead down a dimly lit corridor towards a large double door at the end.
"Inside," the butler said as he pushed them both open.
The man walked out onto a small balcony, overlooking a room below. There was no furniture in this room, save for two large armchairs, a roaring fireplace, and a large painting of her majesty, Queen Victoria, which hung above the fireplace. In the dark shadows of the room, he saw bookshelves lined with thousands upon thousands of books.
He was in the library.
"Come in, Mr. Wells."
He looked down at the two armchairs and saw that one was occupied. He slowly descended the staircase towards the library below.
"Are you the one who dragged me all the way across the entire country?" Wells asked.
"Yes, you could say that," The man answered. He raised a cup of tea in Well's direction. "At long last, the famous H. G. Wells, in my library."
Wells just made a face, "If you are a fan of my writings, I do not do private parties! If you have called me all the way from London just to…"
"Relax, Herbert," the man said in a soothing voice. "My name is Quentin McLeod, of Her Majesties Secret Service." He then pointed the teacup in Wells's Direction. "Since you are in no mode to chat, I'll skip right to the point. The Empire needs your services, Mr. Wells."
"The Empire," Wells said, peering at McLeod as if looking over a pear of specials, "Needs me? What on Earth for, I'm just an author!"
"But you are also a man of vision," McLeod said, standing up. He wore a neat grey suit with dark brown muttonchops, and short hair. "And your ideas of the future, and of… alien life, have lead us towards you, for a specific reason."
Wells gave the agent a hard look. His views on alien life? "I confess," Wells said, "You have peaked my curiosity, for what purpose do you need my help in?"
McLeod walked over to a pool table, to were a small vanilla folder lay. He picked it up, and walked over to Wells, handing it to him. Wells was hesitant to take it, but slowly reached out, and took it from him, opening it up.
Inside was a small 8 by ten photo of… Wells gasped aloud. In the middle of a common, lay a large metallic cylinder, gleaning in the mid-day sun. In the picture, a soldier stood by in order to present a size comparison. It was well over 80 feet long, and 30 feet tall.
"This can't be!" Wells cried out, looking back up at McLeod. "War of the Worlds was just a story, a work of fiction! It isn't real!"
"That's what we first thought," McLeod said, pointing towards the folder, "But everything just seemed so real to your story."
"Has there been any contact from within the… craft?" Wells asked in a hesitant voice.
McLeod shook his head. "It crashed down to Earth about two weeks ago. Since then, nothing. He turned and gestured at the photograph. "This… thing, has a lot of important people scared, Wells. Very important people. I don't need to tell you how sacred the public is with Germany attempting to become a navel power second to none. The last thing we need are Martians roaming about blasting people with heat rays."
"That's if this thing is from Mars." Wells added, glancing back down to the photo in his hand. "If you need my help with this thing, I'll do everything I can, but I must warn you, I am a writer, not a scientist."
"Excellent," McLeod said, his mode suddenly brightening. "We'll head off to the crash sight, first thing in the morning."
Wells tapped his chin, as his gaze lingered over one particular spot in the photo. "Ummm, Excuse me, McLeod?"
"I was just curios, as to what this is?" He pointed to the symbol on the side of the cylinder.
"We don't know," McLeod replied. It could be anything, but the some of the top brass from the royal society believe it to be some kind writing." He gestured for the folder, and Wells handed it to him. He leafed through the contents, and pulled out a sheet of A4 sized paper, and handed it to Wells. "An artist made a colour copy of the image for further study."
"I see," Wells replied in a mummer. The image he was looking at, was a symbol of some sort, but it appeared to be a face. Its edges were sharp and pointed, with eyes that seemed to bore right into the soul. And the face it made, seemed to install terror into Wells's heart.
The image, was a dark purple colour.
LONDON: The Next Day…
The men's lounge of 'The Morning Post' Newspaper building wasn't packed like it usually was on the weekend. Most of the paper's reporters where at home, enjoying the weekend, doing some work around the office, or out on some sort of major story.
Some of the reporters were smoking, laughing, or enjoying a good cup of brandy. Cigar smoke clouded the ceiling of the room. In the corner, an old Gramophone was playing some sort of song by some unknown French girl.
The door at the entrance of the room opened, and in came a neatly dressed man in his early thirties. Winston Churchill was not in the best of modes as he walked in through the front door of The Morning Post, and carried his displeasure all the way up to the men's lounge.
He flung the door back with a loud bang, grabbing every one's attention. "Where the devil is he?" Winston snarled.
"Well, good morning to you too, Winston," a man in his early twenties answered.
"Where is Borthwick?" Winston asked through his teeth.
"Where else would he be," another man replied, taking a sip of brandy, "In his office where he was when you left for South Africa, and he's still there when you came back." He gave a shrug. "So it's my guess that he's still in his office."
Winston snarled something unpleasant and marched boldly out of the men's lounge and towards the big door that read, 'EDITOR in CHIEF.'
Oliver Borthwick, the Editor in Chief of the Morning Post was a very old man, of age 64. In fact, he was almost ready for retirement. His hair was starting to go bald on him, and he was losing the dark colour of his hair. A stodgy was perched on his slightly parted lips, and his feet where up on the desk. His tie lay on the floor, and his sleaves where rolled up. A half eaten pastry treat, lay on his desk.
"Borthwick!" The man didn't glance up, and his door was thrown open, threatening to dislodge the glass window there. "What's the meaning of this!?"
"It's hot Winston," he replied, tugging at his collar, "So I decided to take a few things off. Just because you're a Churchill, doesn't mean I have to look my best around you all the time."
"No, not that," Winston said, waving away the joke with one arm. He then thrust a piece of paper into the editor's face. "I mean this!"
Borthwick didn't bother to read it. He already knew what it said; after all, he'd sent it. "It means what it says, Winston," Borthwick snuffed his stodgy out in the ashtray. "I need you here."
"For what!?!" Winston cried out, throwing his arms up in the air. "When I resigned my commission in the army to go into politics, I never thought in a million years I'd end up being batted around the Empire like a shuttle cock in a game of badminton."
"Winston," Borthwick said, rasing a hand to silence him. "For once in your life, shut up and listen." When the man was silent, Borthwick continued. "A friend of mine in the army sent me quite an interesting photo last week." He reached into a drawer in his desk, and pulled out an opened envelope. "And I must admit, Winston, this is nothing compared with the troubles going on in South Africa."
Winston gave the Editor in Chief a funny look, before snatching the envelope from his hand. He reached in, and pulled out a small photo. His eyes widened, and then he shoved it into Borthwicks face.
"What is this? Some practical joke?" He said.
"For God's sake, Winston," Borthwick moaned, pushing the photo aside, "I'm not that blind."
"And I'm not that behind the times, Borthwick," Winston replied, "I've read War of the Worlds too." He looked at the photo of the cylinder. "This has to be a forgery. But I must admit, it's the best forgery I've ever seen."
"Winston," Borthwick said, leaving him a hard look. "It's real." He was about to rebuttal, but Borthwick quickly interrupted him. "This source is the best source I have, and I know he wouldn't send me a joke."
"But… But…" Winston stammered. "It can't be real!"
"Then find that out, Winston," Borthwick said. "You're my best corespondent. If anyone can discover the truth, it's you!"
Winston still couldn't believe it. Martians? It just wasn't possible. It couldn't be. "Very well," Winston replied, "I'll go and prove this to be the hoax it is."
"Good," Borthwick said with a smile. "Because you're leaving 12:30 PM sharp for Scotland."
"That was quick." Winston said narrowing an eye. "You had all this planed before hand, didn't you."
"Time is curtail, Winston," Borthwick said. "By the time you get there, things may have gotten out of hand. Or the joke may be over. Either way, I want you in the thick of it when it dose happen."
"That doesn't give me much time to prepare," Winston said, taking out his pocket watch and checking the time.
"Well, neither dose war, Winston," Borthwick said, his face suddenly growing cold.
"Oh, for heaven's sake, Borthwick, relax. This isn't South Africa you know."
"No, you're right," he said. "It's much worse."
IN THE WATERS OF CUBA: Two Days Later…
Theodore Roosevelt looked out over the blue open waters of the Atlantic, as the USS Huston sailed back to America. Beside him, the newly promoted Brigadier General John 'Black Jack' Pershing, stood. Both men looked back at the vanishing shores of Cuba.
Teddy sucked in a deep breath of the sweet, pure air of the sea. "Like wine in the lungs," he said to John, "No stink of Gun Powder, no sickly smell of blood, and no more blasted heat."
"Ay men to that Colonel," John said with a huge grin. "Thought I my confess, I do miss the thrill of the battle."
"Me too, John," Teddy replied, "me too, but I have a wife and a family back home who miss me even more." He then turned, as if looking towards the United States. "Don't worry, my Dearest Edith, your Teddy will be home soon."
John just nodded simply. "I guess now that with you and your boys going home, I'll stop having to call you Colonel?"
"Well, Bully," Teddy said, "I was just getting used to that rank, but you can call me what ever like, considering you out rank me now."
"Dose that mean I can call you Teddy?" He asked with a grin.
"Don't push it, Black Jack." Teddy replied. Both men chuckled among them selves as they watched the ever-fading shoreline sink behind the horizon.
"Now that you've got your slice of glory, Roosevelt," John asked, "What are your plans for the future?"
"What else, my dear friend," Teddy said with a grin, "But the President of the United States."
"With the stunt you pulled of at San Juan Hill, you're bound to be a shoe in." John said. "Although it won't make McKinley happy."
"Well, Bully for him," Teddy cried out. "Say, when will we be back on America's shores?"
"At our present speed," John looked over the edge of the ship as if calculating the mathematics in his head. "We'll be in Miami tomorrow."
Just then, a young man, most likely an orderly, approached the two men with a nervous expression on his face. "Excuse me, Colonel Roosevelt?"
"For God sakes, boy," The man thundered, giving him a hearty slap on the back, "I'm outta the army now, call me Teddy!"
"I was given order from W…" The boy paused. Teddy suspected he was about to say Washington, but quickly covered his tracks. "My superiors." He said instead. "Information forwarded by American sympathisers in London regarding a possible threat to our shores."
"Who, the Spanish?" Teddy laughed out loud, "We've gone and done, licked them, boy! Who else could threaten us?"
"I'm not sure sir," the boy answered. "All I know, is that you've been asked to come to Washington by the State Department, and the Secretary for War."
Teddy's eyes narrowed into a serious mode, as he turned from the boy, to John, and back again. "A serious threat you say?"
"That's what I was told."
"Why tell me?" Teddy asked.
"From what I was told, the president ignored the information, regarding it as stupid British nonsense."
"Arrgh," Teddy growled in frustration, throwing up his hands, "McKinley! That pompous idiot wouldn't take a threat seriously until it was on the very steps of the white house." He then slapped the handrails of the ship, and grinned back at the boy. "Very well, you can count on Ol' Teddy Roosevelt's support. How about you, John? Are you in the mode for another adventure?"
"Why not?" John replied with a shrug. "I'll most likely end up being posted to some God forsaken fort along the Mexican frontier when I get back."
"Splendid!" Roosevelt cried out, as he turned towards the boy. "When do we leave for Washington?"
"The moment you get into Miami." He said. "All your luggage will be transferred to another ship, and you'll make a non stop trip all the way."
"Humph, no rest for the wiry, 'ey?" Roosevelt said. "When we get to Washington, then we'll see what kind of adventure we'll be in for. I believe that the coming days should be just bully!"
BREADALBANE: SCOTLAND: Yesterday
After yet another bumpy carriage ride out to the middle of nowhere, H. G. Wells was finally ready to see the craft that bore a striking resemblance to the one's in his own stories.
As they drove along the road, they came up to a checkpoint, guarded by six men in red coats. Soldiers. The ranking officer ordered the carriage to stop, and checked the driver's papers.
"This is our stop," McLeod told Wells, "We're going to have to foot it the rest of the way. Oh, don't worry, it's not that far."
The soldiers asked the both of them for identification, one man even asked Wells for an autograph, but was quickly reprimanded by his ranking officer.
"You do know," Wells, told McLeod, "I am feeling just a shot of nervousness about the whole thing."
"You think you're worried, could you imagine the faces of the top brass back in London when they got news of this." In the beginning, McLeod had been sceptical himself.
Not the least of the cause of this change of attitude had been a rather hurried letter from his superiors telling him basically to keep things as they were while they figured out what the hell they were going to do. Actually that had been the second letter. The first had gone something like: 'This had better be either a mistake or the beginning of a very good joke'.
It was mid afternoon when they had arrived that the sight. The sun glared down with all its intensity, making Wells tug at his collar as they walked along. Here and there, he could make out soldiers, making regular rounds, patrolling the area.
"And here we are!" McLeod announced, as they came to the top of a hill. There in the field below him, lay the cylinder. Wells mouth dropped open in amazement. It was almost exactly like the one he'd dreamed up in his story.
Artillery surrounded the spacecraft, while soldiers littered the area. Men in white lab coats scurrying all around the object, doing all sorts of arcane scientific things.
"My God," Wells gasped.
"Well, there it is, Mr Wells," McLeod said pointing at it with his cane, "Do you still think this is a hoax now?"
"I… I…" Wells could only stammer in reply. "Incredible." He finally managed to say.
"It won't be incredible if whatever's inside turns out to be hostile."
"War of the Worlds was just a story, McLeod," Wells snapped. "The chances of Martians inside with giant tripods and heat rays are astronomical."
"So where the chances of anything coming from Mars," McLeod said, quoting Wells novel. "Yet they came."
"Well, something came, I'll give you that much credit," Wells answered.
"But what?" McLeod asked.
There was an awaked silence between the two men, before a short balding man with specials, wearing a white lab coat came out of a tent, and recognising them, made a beeline for the two men.
"Ahh," he said, drawing their attention. "Mr. Wells, I'm so glad you decided to join us."
"It's a pleasure," Wells said, holding out his hand.
"Professor Chester Hurst, Oxford University." The man replied, accepting Wells's hand and shaking it.
"Professor Hurst?" Wells said, narrowing his eyes. "Ahhh, now I remember. I read your essay on the use of armoured vehicles for war. I found it rather stimulating."
"Thankyou Mr. Wells," Hurst said with a bright smile. "Coming from someone like you, that means a lot."
"Your welcome," Wells said, and then turned to look at the cylinder. "So, any idea what that is?"
"A Martian space ship?" Hurst said with a lop sided grin. Wells made a face.
"Professor!" He warned.
"Just kidding," Hurst said holding up his hands in defence, "You writers have the sense of humour of a brick." He then turned and pointed at the object. "So far, we've managed to discover that this thing, came from a location, further than Mars."
"So it's not Martian?" McLeod asked.
"No," Hurst answered. "As for that thing," he then pointed to the dark purple horrifying face on the cylinders side, "We've come to the conclusion that it's not writing at all, but some sort of national flag."
"How curious," Wells muttered.
"Anything else?" McLeod asked.
"There seem to be some sort of electrical pulses from within the ship. However, they are weak, and very low. Perhaps whatever powered this thing was operating with low capacity."
"What do you mean?" McLeod asked.
"From what we've deciphered from the engines, the craft gave of a burst of power every so often. With no friction in space, it was gradually picking up speed, covering a long distance in a short time as it gradually picked up speed."
"Is there any sign of a door, or opening of some kind?"
"Not that we can tell," Hurst replied, "There doesn't seem to be any sort of…"
Wells never herd the rest of what Hurst had to say. While the two men were talking, he'd started walking towards the craft. It was just like the cylinder from his dreams, the one he'd used for the Martins in his famous novel.
He wandered up to the ship, the soldiers watched him from a distance. He walked along side the ship, coming to the stop before the giant purple face. His right hand came up, and touched the crafts side. It wasn't burning hot like in his story; after all, it'd been resting for nearly two weeks here. It was cold, and lifeless.
He could feel the occasional thud of electricity from deep within the ship, pulsing like a weak heart beat. Then, his fingers drew over the face, and he froze. The image was unlike anything he'd ever seen. Its eyes glowered down; its sharp features seemed to warn all around to back off.
"What do you think?"
"Jesus!" Wells jumped, and spun around, to see Hurst and McLeod standing behind him.
"Find any openings, Mr. Wells?" McLeod asked.
"None what so ever!" Hurst answered for him, offended that Wells could find something that he hadn't found in two weeks of research.
"I really don't think we should open this thing, gentlemen," Wells said, looking back up at the purple face. "I have a bad feeling about it."
"What makes you so sure," McLeod asked, rubbing his chin, and looking at the purple face that Wells was looking at.
"Nonsense," Hurst snorted. "There's no life signs inside that thing, and even if there were, we would've discovered them by now."
"The same thing was said by Ogilby, the astronomer, a character in my story. And we're all aware of what happened to him, aren't we."
"Mr. Wells," Hurst said, pointing at the cylinder, "Nothing living could live inside that ship. It's completely empty."
"Then that's even more a reason not to open it," Wells said. "After all, we as human beings are only aware of what's around us and there for, if we don't know what something is, then it can't possibly exist."
"So you're saying that the alien life forms in there don't need air to breath?"
"That's a possibility," Wells said with a shrug. "Hurst said that there have been no sounds from inside the ship, other than the sounds of electricity operating. What if the creatures inside are lying in a sate of hibernation. Like a bear."
"Hibernation?" McLeod asked.
"Yes," Hurst said, rubbing his chin, "I see what you mean. That would make a lot of sense. And that would explain a few things."
Both Wells and McLeod looked at each other, then back at Hurst. "Explain what few things?" McLeod asked.
"Mr. Wells," Hurst said, "Did you feel the heartbeat like electrical pulses when you touched the ship?"
"Yes, I did," Wells said.
"Would you care to take another feel?" Confusion crossed Wells's face as he slowly reached up, and touched the ship again. "Tell me, what do you feel?"
Wells was about to say the same thing he felt before, but he quickly paused. Something was different. Narrowing his eyes, he concentrated, and realised. "The pulses are weaker than before." He said.
"Exactly," Hurst replied with a nod.
"What dose that mean?" McLeod asked.
"It means the ship is slowly running out of power," Hurst answered. "Well, that's what we first thought, but Mr. Wells idea of hibernation has roused a new theory."
"That it's not running out of power, rather counting down," Wells said.
"Counting down?" McLeod said, more confused than before. "Counting down to what?"
"Re-Awakening." Wells said. McLeod glanced up at the huge craft, and for the first time since they meet, Wells saw the man visibly shiver.
NORTHEN QUEENSLAND: AUSTRALIA: Three Days Later…
Colonel Richards raised the Winchester to his shoulder, squinted down the sights, and pulled the trigger. The rifle bucked against his shoulder. The shot echoed throughout the endless expanses of the tropical jungle, making many of the countries native birds take to the air with strange, almost alien squawks.
"Take that, ya damned Englishman!" He shouted in his heavy Scottish accent, as he worked the lever. A brass cartridge case leapt into the air, then fell to the ground with a small clink. He aimed the rifle for another shot. He didn't fire. A couple of hundred yards away, the kangaroo staggered, after it's first frantic bound. As the others bounded away, into the thick of the trees, it took a few more wobbling hops, then fell to the ground. Richards shouted in triumph, and quickly rushed over to where the dead animal lay.
"Good shot, Colonel." Ivan Sankowski replied in the best English he could manage.
"You know Colonel," Gregory Steel said in his English accent, "I AM right here, you know." Richards smiled at him, and nodded.
"I know." He said with a giant grin. "An' I don't give a fuck!" He laughed, and climbed over the ancient fallen tree trunk. Steel just rolled his eyes, and followed, with Ivan right behind him.
Richards had, almost a dark tan, from being under the harsh Australian sun for nearly a decade. He was nearing his 40th year, and had just recently been promoted to the rank of Colonel in Her Majesties Army. The color of his hair -- hidden beneath the white safari helmet -- matched that of his crimson uniform.
Behind Richards, was Sir Gregory Steel, a 45-year-old train tycoon from London, who was busy expanding his own private empire into the Dominions. He wore a khaki suit complete with jet-black hiking boots, and a safari hat. His mustache was short, and clean, with dark brown muttonchops protruding down from under his hat.
Behind him, walked Ivan Sankowski. Sankowski was from the Ukraine area of Imperial Russia. He'd been a big game hunter in the northern areas of the island Continent, and was now a valued tracker. He was a big man at the age of fifty, with a thick, bushy steel gray mustache, and slight sign of wrinkles. He wore light khaki trousers, faded brown cowboy boots, with a white short-sleeved shirt, and a small khaki vest. A wide brimmed light brown hat covered his graying hair.
They were in this relatively unknown part of Northern Australia on official Empire business. Now, with missionaries arriving more frequently, it would be important to secure this tropical jungle to make it more safe for settlers. That and someone back in Sydney suggested that rubber, a precious raw material that was found in jungles like the Belgian Congo, the Dutch East Indies, and the Amazon, could be found in the rain forests of Northern Queensland.
"Has any European ever been this far north before?" Richards asked.
"Not to this place, no," Sankowski replied. "The local native population don't even bother coming here."
"They believe this area is sacred, that's why," Sankowski replied. Both Steel and Richards nodded. They'd come this far North with an Expedition party of about 20 men. Now, it was just the three of them. The local natives that they brought with them to carry all their equipment, and supplies and so on, refused to go any further, spouting some gibberish about sacred ground.
*No men are allowed beyond these trees,* the eldest and leader of the packers had said. *It is forbidden.*
Steel had tried everything from bribery to pleading with the packers, but they wouldn't budge. Sankowski had threatened to shoot him, if Steel attempted to shoot a few of the natives to get them into line. Instead, Sankowski suggested that they travel the rest of the way by themselves.
Finally, they were in the heart of the tropical rain forest it's self. Dense trees packed closely together that reminded the three men of pictures they'd seen of the Amazon. "Wow," Richards said, looking around. "I've never seen anything like this back in Brisbane," Richards said.
"That's because you stick to much to your damn barracks," Ivan replied. "You should get out more."
"Well, gentlemen," Steel said, taking of his pack and resting it against a tree, "Shall we proceed with the ceremony then?"
"Okay, okay," Richards, said, as they all put down their packs. Richards then opened up his pack, and pulled out the British flag. He then assembled the poll, and stuck it in the ground. "I here by claim this land, and the surrounding lands, in the name of her majesty, Queen Victoria and the Empire of Britain." Both Richards and Steel saluted the flag. Ivan just lit his pipe. Richards then pulled out a set of bagpipes, and began to play 'Rule Brittaina,' while Steel sang the words.
"To Colonialism," Ivan muttered. He sucked it, and blew a few smoke rings into the air. With the sun coming down in two hours, the trio decided to set up camp for the night. Each man had his own tent. They spent the remainder of the afternoon building their camp. As afternoon melted into dusk, they all settled down to a dinner of roast Kangaroo, a few vegetables, and a nice hot cup of tea.
After dinner, they all sat around the fire, smoking their respective pipes. Ivan was glancing up at the stars, when Richards turned to talk to him. "Hey Ivan," he asked, "What do you suppose those natives are afraid of?"
"Who knows?" Ivan replied, without taking his eyes away. He sucked on his pipe, and blew the smoke out through his nose. "There are hundreds of undiscovered animals out there," he gestured with his hand towards the dense foliage of the tall trees, hiding the moonlight from their eyes. "I've herd rumours of giant man-eating lizards in the Dutch East Indies. Enormous creatures that roam the most isolated islands. We still haven't come close to exploring this entire continent yet, there could be some sort of weird animal out here. You know how the Natives of India worship the cow. Perhaps they worship an animal that roams here." He shrugged his shoulders. "Then again, maybe some witch doctor, a long time ago, used this place for sacrifice or something."
"Giant man-eating lizards?" Steel asked with anxiety.
"I said rumours. Besides, I believe that some over excited drunk probably saw a crocodile that had swam all the way from the Northern Territories." Ivan replied. He then leaned forward, picking up a stick, and jostling it around in the fire, sending sparks into the air. "Anyway, we have guns and plenty of flammable stuff, there's nothing to be afraid of." He turned to look Steel directly in the eyes. "We run into anything that gives us trouble, we'll simply remind them just whose on the top of the evolutionary ladder."
Richards sucked on his pipe, and let out a long trail of smoke into the air. "Anything that tries to mess with me, is going to learn second worse thing you can do, is anger a Scott." Richards fingered the trigger on his Winchester.
"The second?" Ivan asked raising an eyebrow. "What's the first?"
"Calling 'em an English man," Richards said with a half smile.
"Hah," Steel scoffed. "You Highland Heathens don't respect anything about England. Where would you be without England? What about all the good things that have come out of England?"
"Ach," Richards said, leaning back, "The only good thing to come out of England, was the road to Scotland." Ivan couldn't help but burst out laughing, nearly dropping his pipe in the fire.
"Well," Steel said, "I'm glad you find it amusing, but may I remind you, that it's England that's out there, brining civilization to the world! Our flag now stands on roughly one fourth of the planet, Colonel Richards. One fourth!"
"And y're damned welcome to it," Richards said, "Give me Scotland any day. Five more years, 'an I can retire to an army barracks in the Highlands. When that day rolls 'round, I'll be more happy than I have ever been in my life."
"Okay," Ivan said hastily, "Let's talk about something else, shall we?"
"Like what?" Steel asked.
"Like what lies ahead of us? This area has only been treed by the local Aborigines, most who never have come back, and they've been surviving in this place since Europeans lived in caves." He glanced over at a fallen tree trunk. "Millions of years ago, this dry continent once was covered in a lush tropical jungle, much like the Amazon. Now, after the shifting of continents, this is all that's left. This is the one part of Australia that has not changed in millions of years of evolution."
"I don't really care that much," Richards replied with a shrug. "A forest's a forest to me."
"See," Steel said, "Is it any wonder with that attitude it's not Scotland that's dominating the world?" Richards pointed an accusing finger at him.
"Don't make me brake y'er jaw, English!" He said in a calm tone of voice.
"How about we call it a night, shall we?" Ivan asked of the cuff.
"Yes," Steel said, "We could all use a good nights rest for our long journey tomorrow."
"Should we keep watch?" Richards asked. Ivan glanced over the surrounding jungle.
"No," he said after a while, "I don't think so. We haven't come across any predators in about a week. We shouldn't get much trouble out here, except for the occasional herbivore, like Skippy here." He gestured at the half eaten meat on the spit.
"Fine," Steel said, crawling into his tent, "I shall see you both in the morning." He then zipped up the fly screen on his tent, and got out his blanket. Richards followed suit, leaving Ivan to douse out the fire, and bury any remaining meat. Then, he crawled into his tent, zipped up the fly screen, and covered himself with his blanket.
As he closed his eyes, and drifted of to sleep, he could've sworn he heard the sound of far of chanting, playing long into the night.
Ivan blinked open his eyes to sunlight. He sighed happily, and sat up, yawning, and wiping the sleep from his eyes. Running his hand through his hair, he crawled forward, and unzipped his tent. He crawled out into the fresh Australian air, and took in a deep breath. He then clambered off all fours, and looked about.
Sunlight stabbed its way through the canopy of the treetops. That strange laughing bird he'd heard about echoed all around the trees, and he grimaced at the fowl taste in his mouth.
He picked up a frying pan, and banged a metal spoon against it. "Rise an shine, everybody," he said, "it's time for a quick breakfast, and then, we're off again."
"I don't believe I asked for a wake up call," Steel moaned from his tent. Richard's tent flap opened, and he climbed out, already dressed up in his military uniform, with his jacket undone.
"Well, I'm ready," he said.
They all arose for a quick breakfast of fried eggs and bacon. After breakfast they washed up, and packed up, and were ready to go in just under an hour. Ivan led the way, followed by Richards, with Steel bringing up the rear.
As they hiked deeper into the jungle, the trees grew closer, thicker; making it almost impossible for any sunlight to make it's way through. It got so bad, that all three men pulled out oil lamps, and lit them, before continuing their way.
As it almost grew into night, Ivan paused, and looked around.
"What's the matter?" Richards asked, walking up to him.
"Something's wrong," Ivan replied. He shone the lamp ahead of him. It barely penetrated seven feet. "I don't know, but I've got a bad feeling."
"Just superstition," Steel said, charging ahead of him, with his lamp held high, "Honestly, Sankowski, you're just as worse as those—"
"HOLD!!" Ivan suddenly shouted, grabbing Richards roughly around the shoulders.
"Whoa!" Steel cried out, as his right foot came down on nothing but empty air. Richards rushed up, and held up his lamp. The track ended abruptly and vanished down into darkness.
Ivan leaned his head closer to Steel's ear. "Next time I say something wrong, you listen, got it!" He hissed. Steel nodded and whipped away some sweat from his brow.
"I can't see the bott'm!" Richards said, peering down into the darkness. Ivan picked up a rock, and tossed it into the darkness. They all herd it bounce of rock, after rock on the way down, before echoing it's landing.
"Well, it has a bottom," Ivan muttered, taking off his pack, and reaching in, pulled out a fleer gun. He leveled the gun, and fired. There was a bright flash of light, as the fleer rocketed out over the pit, and arched down into the darkness, lighting the way.
"My God!" Steel whispered. "What is that?"
There was something down there, that wasn't part of the natural rock formation. It was huge and metallic.
"I don't know," Ivan muttered, "But I'm going to find out." He stuffed the fleer gun into his belt, and picking up his backpack, stared climbing down the rocky cliff face towards the bottom of the pit. Richards was close behind him.
"Are you sure that's wise?" Steel called out to them.
"Fine," Ivan called back to him, "You can stay up there, all alone out here, and warn us of any danger that comes our way."
"Wait!" Steel cried out, "I'm coming, wait up!" It took a while before they finally reached the bottom of the pit. They all walked closer to the object, shining their lamps at the thing. It was covered in moss, dead leaves, and fallen trees. Vines wrapped their way all around the thing like vanes, holding it in place.
"Wow!" Richards whispered.
"Wow indeed Colonel," Ivan said.
"What is it?" Steel asked, staying just behind the two
"What makes you think I would know now," Ivan muttered. He and Richards began to climb all over it, exploring it from top to bottom, while Steel stood back, and began to assemble his camera.
"This is incredible," he muttered, setting up the flash. "I wonder who could've built it?" Ivan traced his hands across it. It was cold and metallic. Yet it was as old as the mountains of the Urals back in Russia.
Steel's camera flashed as he took a photo, and then hastily began to set up another shot.
"Look," Richards cried out. Ivan leaned over to see what was the fuss. The Colonel was shining his lamp over a large hole in the side of the thing, ripped open; it was about the size of a lifeboat.
Both Ivan and Steel hurried over, and peered inside. "MY God," Steel whispered, "It's like the insides of a submarine."
"It can't be," Ivan said, peering inside with his lamp, "This things older than the whole jungle its self. How could we humans have built this thing?"
"I don't think humans built this," Richards muttered.
"Martins?" Steel asked. Richards shrugged.
"Now, I didn't say that."
"Well, I'm going to find out," Ivan said, as he carefully made his way into the hole, and climbed down.
"Wait fer me!" Richards said, as he followed.
"Now, I have a bad feeling about this," Steel murmured, as he followed the other two, "So how come no ones listening to me?"
"This is unbelievable," Ivan gasped, shining the lamp around, ignoring Steel's question. The inside was hollow, and indeed looked like a submarine, but everything was huge and out of proportion, as if made for giants. Wires of ever color hung everywhere, water dripped constantly somewhere down the halls, and scraps of broken metal littered the ground everywhere, along with moss, boulders and dead leaves.
"What the hell is this gibberish?" Richards asked, shining his lamp on a wall of the thing. On the wall were faded yellow scrawling.
"Looks like writing," Steel said.
"Let's see what else this thing holds," Ivan said, as they started walking down the corridor.
"I'd like to get a picture of this, if you two gentlemen don't mind," Steel said, pointing at the writing.
"What ever," Richards mumbled, staring at everything he could. Steel quickly rushed back outside and grabbed his camera equipment, and set about getting it ready. Finally, he held up the flash pan, and took a photo.
The bright flash of light ricocheted off the ancient walls, lighting up the whole room for a split second. He adjusted the lenses of the camera, trying to get some more detail in. Then, took another photo.
The flash lit up the whole hall again. This time, when the hall returned to darkness, there was something different. Steel herd the click that echoed of the walls behind him. He spun around, dropping the flash pan which echoed off the metal floor.
"Hello?" He called out. "Colonel? Sankwoski?" No one answered him. He swallowed a lump in his throat, and glanced around. The only sounds he could here there the constant echoes of water dripping down somewhere down the halls. He licked his dry lips, and mopped his sweating brow, then bent down to pick up the flash pan.
He screamed, falling backwards. There, on the ground he was standing on, were two glowing red eyes. They shone brighter than the sun it's self, filling the hall with an eerie red glow.
Suddenly, there was a rumbling sound, and the ground beneath Steel's feet shook like an earthquake. But that wasn't possible. There were no earthquakes in Australia. He searched franticly around for the source, and screamed again, as a hand, followed by an arm, rose out form the ground.
He scrambled back further, until he back up against a wall. He watched in sheer terror as the giant hand flexed, then, the eyes rose, showing a head attached to it. Steel flung his arms up in front of his face in fear, as he screamed out for Richards and Ivan.
Then, the ground gave way, as a torso, then a waist rose, followed by another arm. This one had the biggest artillery cannon Steel had ever seen attached to it. The only one he'd seen that was at least an equal was attached to a battle ship.
Then, the boulders and rocks Steel were standing on, were tossed about, as a pair of legs kicked out, and made themselves visible.
Suddenly, the giant metal creature began to speak. Nothing Steel knew or understood, just high pitched squealing sounds like rusty metal and oil less gears grinding and clicks. Steel was as white as a ghost; he couldn't speak, as the creature staggered to its feet. It was well over 40 feet tall.
Its eyes glowed brightly, lighting up the room. It was white and light gray, with an odd shaped helmet on its head. It was then, that Steel saw the dark purple symbol on its chest. Like a face of the devil it's self.
As it continued to screech, Steel still managed to make out only one word. A word he couldn't understand, but knew what it meant. It meant the creature's name.